I EAT an awful lot of fish and seafood these days — especially when travelling outside the country —mainly because I like it, but even more so because, sadly, lovely, luscious rich red meat doesn’t seem to like me anymore!
Eating Out with Dusty Miller
But I thought the prices of the fruits of the sea quite a bit over the top at Coimbra, the popular Portuguese-style restaurant in The Avenues last week.
So as a result, I ordered the trademark speciality dish of half a plump, peppery piri-piri chicken with Portuguese boiled potatoes at a more comfortable price.
To get things in perspective, a “standard” (and very, very good) crustacean-filled prawn curry at Tandoor at Sunrise Sports Club on Sunday cost just US$9 and I struggled to finish it with excellent fluffy jira rice, which (granted) was an extra US$4 and a free buttery naan bread. A Large prawn curry would have been US$14.
That’s what it costs at The Pointe, including rice! You’ll usually pay between that figure and US$24 across the city; so caveat emptor!
Coimbra doesn’t offer prawn curry (pity, I’m doing an on-going in-depth study of that dish as served in Ha-ha-ha-rare, Africa’s fun capital) but “prawns”: presumably grilled with piri-piri sauce were US$29,50 there.
(No details on the menu of size or number served), kingklip was US$21,5, sole US$19,5; “line fish” (garoupa or something similar) US$16,5, hake fillets US$15,5 and bacalhau (dried, salted cod: I’ve heard it described as “fish biltong!”) a whopping US$32.
And all those prices are — supposedly — plus US$4,50 (why the annoying “and 50c” on many items when there’s no change in the country?) for “starch”: rice, chips or boiled spuds. Well that’s according to the slightly confused and confusing menu…read on, though.
I had my usual healthy vegetable fix with a big, deep steaming bowl of caldo verde (green soup) which in metropolitan Portugal features kale, but here (I suspect) principal ingredient is rape, spinach or chard.
It’s never as good as the Italian equivalent starter course: minestrone soup, but I’m rather fond of it.
Nowadays they actually ask you if you want chorico/chorizo in the broth: three chunks of the fiery Peninsula sausage. Or not? Of course I did, is the Pope Argentinean?
Soup comes with Coimbra’s just too more-ish soft-crumbed crispy crusted continental style bread always sparklingly fresh and often still warm, with fiddly packets of air-line type imported butter or marge and costs US$3, plus you’ve guessed it… and 50c.
A traditional Portuguese style salad is US$5,50, but will probably feed two punters.
As always, Coimbra (it’s named after a Portuguese city boasting one of the oldest universities in Europe) was amazingly packed and I went quite late on a chilly evening last Wednesday. Two nights later Coimbra’s main opposition restaurant, Paula’s Place, where Highlands meets Greendale and Eastlea, was even busier, later on at night and it was even colder!
Both are happy-go-lucky family style eateries. Coimbra had few seats free and boasted three or four enormous family tables of pleasantly bibulous diners.
At one, I noticed the Mateus Rosé flowing like water used to do in Zimbabwe’s capital; at another they were drinking copious quantities of 3M, the really great lager of Mozambique.
The flagship half piri-piri chicken is consistently first class: loads of meat, marinated expertly, char-grilled to perfection, plump and juicy and it certainly ticked all the right boxes in my case.
I hadn’t eaten for 14 hours and the bird’s carcass was picked and gnawed clean. Unlike Colonel Sander’s poultry products, this really was “finger lickin’ good!” (I hear KFC are no longer coming to Zimbabwe, due to the ill thought out and clumsy indigenisation policy. Can’t blame them!)
Coimbra’s jugs of additional (and free) sauces and gravies are always superb, too: just begging to have the great bread dipped in them!
Spurning the obvious attractions of the deep-fat fryer, I firmly decided against chips and ordered Portuguese-style “whole” boiled potatoes. I don’t know why that name is used, because they almost always come in neat halves!
These spuds were also full of flavour and cooked with precision.
The plate was decorated with a fringe of salad and separate lemon wedges helped to cut the grease.
On the final bill the main course (huku) was a very reasonable US$11 including the boiled potatoes! (Eh?).
A short range of desserts cost US$5 (straight!) each. I opted for a splendid Lusitanian trademark Molotov pudding: rich and covered in a great caramel sauce and reminiscent of school dinner “sweets”.
Bottom line: soup, main course, pudding, two Golden Pilsner lagers: US$23.
Coimbra opens lunch and supper Tuesday to Sunday. Eating is totally indoors or semi al-fresco. Child and handicapped friendly. Smoking and non-smoking tables. Compact, reasonably priced, wine list. Safe, guarded, parking.